AmChimney.com….American Chimney Cincinnati, OH
Fireplace dampers sit almost directly above the heat of the fire. Over time, the extreme heat and rapid change in temperature can warp and damage the fireplace damper such that they need replaced. A damper must be in one piece that is snug to the flue in order for it to work properly, and if the damper cracks while being rapidly heated and cooled, it will no longer work properly. Replacing a fireplace damper by yourself is possible, and you can save yourself some serious money by foregoing professional consultation.
One step that folks who want to complete the job themselves often skip is actually removing any debris up where the damper sits and also in the firebox itself. Any ashes in the firebox should be removed and thrown away, but be sure that the ashes have fully cooled before manipulating them. We recommend putting the ashes into a metal can
From here the process is actually quite simple. There will be a rod that is fixed inside the chimney by nuts. Use a wrench to loosen the nuts and remove the metal rod. The damper itself will now be able to be twisted off. If your damper has significant rusting, this part may be difficult, and if the metal rod itself has rusted you will want to replace it and the corresponding nuts. You may want to consult a professional in choosing a new damper, but if you do not want to simply taking your existing damper with you when you go to get the new one will allow you to compare dimensions and ensure that you have a proper fit. Very large chimneys may need custom made dampers, but this is rarely the case.
Installing the damper is quite easy– simply slide it back onto the rod in the same fashion that you removed the old damper and fix the rod and damper back into place using the same nuts as before. Be sure it is securely fastened and that it will not wiggle or fall over time. Despite the simplicity of replacing a fireplace damper, I have heard from folks who have installed the damper incorrectly that they lit their first fire after the replacement and their whole room filled with smoke!
This is no problem and is usually not the fault of the damper’s construction.
Put the fire out and look closely at the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure that you have installed it as the manufacturer had intended. If you are still experiencing problems, consult a professional.
When replacing your existing damper, a product now available on the market is called a top sealing damper, where the damper is actually located at the top of the chimney, controlled by a cable that reaches down the chimney, which prevents heated air in the winter from being lost up and out of the chimney. LockTop top sealing damper systems are generally what are installed by professionals these days because of their efficiency and ease of use for the customer.
Unlike some appliances which need maintenance only when a problem arises, dryer vents need ongoing maintenance to keep them safe. When it comes to a sweeping company, most people really only consider having their fireplaces cleaned, and maybe their furnace, but what about your dryer vent? This must be cleaned regularly in order to best prevent a fire from starting. Here are some tips in caring for your dryer in between servicing.
1. After every load of laundry, clean off the lint screen! This simple task is a habit for most people accustomed to doing laundry, but doing so really increases the efficiency of your dryer.
2. If your dryer vent (the circular, flexible pipe extending from the back of the dryer to outside of your home) is a vinyl hose, it should be replaced. These are very old dryer vents. Newer models of dryers come with rigid, metal ducts in order to decrease the likelihood of a fire occurring. These rigid pipes are smooth on the inside to keep lint and other debris from catching on the sides and causing blockage. Regarding your chimney’s duct, the shorter the better; the longer the pipe and the more turns that exist the harder your dryer has to work, increasing your electric bill monthly.
Pic courtesy of Chimney Solutions Alanta GA
Having your dryer vent serviced yearly keeps your dryer running efficiently for a longer period of time. Dryers that don’t work efficiently causes each load to take longer to dry and for heavy items such as towels to come out still damp. Having to put items back through the cycle again is extremely wasteful. Finally, if there is no lint appearing on the lint screen when you check it for lint (meaning none whatsoever) there is a very good chance that your dryer vent’s exhaust system may be clogged.
Most chimney sweeping companies are also certified for cleaning dryer vents. Don’t skip this process! An inefficient dryer or a fire caused by a clogged dryer vent will cost you more in the long runt. It is very important to check your dryer vents to ensure there is not a lint buildup! Clogged vents will restrict the flow of air and the efficiency of the dryer. Your dryer will work much harder and longer to dry your clothes, which cost you money and energy.
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Spring is right around the corner, and folks that means its home improvement time. Were you disappointed by your heating bill using a furnace? Or did you struggle with your fireplace all season long? There are so many modernizations available for fireplaces to make them more efficient, send heat further in the room, and much more, which you may want to look into this season while you are working on other parts of your home.
Its true although it may seem counter-intuitive, some fireplace are actually so inefficient that they lose more heat up the flue system than they emit into the room. Extreme cases can actually cause a 20% heat loss! Imagine factoring in an extra 20% to your heating bill from this winter, or more importantly factoring out 20%. Everyone wants lower energy bills, and achieving a lower heating bill next winter is as easy as taking some of the suggestions listed below.
Glass Doors display, at Bromwell Fireplace shop in Cincinnati, just an amazing store to visit and shop at!
One of the most obvious solutions to the problem of heat loss is to physically prevent the heat from exiting the home. Installing fireplace glass doors is an easy way of doing so which also is an attractive addition to any home. I find these glass doors most helpful when I’m waiting for the fire to go out and its burning low but its still too early to shut the chimney damper. Preventing air from
heading up the chimney is a huge efficiency booster.
Similarly, the installation of a fireplace fireback is another relatively small price to pay for increased fireplace efficiency. These firebacks can be highly decorative or very simple and can be made of stainless steel or a more expensive, decorative cast iron. Firebacks are simply set in the fireplace behind the grate and amplify the radiant heat from the fire into the room, more so than the firebox wall would. Some manufacturer’s cite huge efficiency increases with the installation of their product, most of which are noticeable immediately after installation.
Fireplace Tool Set
Some people might not think of efficiency of burning as including the stoking and care of the fire before and after the fire burns, but technically speaking if you can decrease your time spent handling the ashes, etc., that makes the fireplace a more efficient heating method because it provides heat in a shorter period of time. A nice tool set will aid in ash removal and stoking the fire so it burns to its maximum potential.
Options to Discuss with a Professional
If your fireplace smokes toward the beginning of your fire or continuously even during the time you are burning a fire, you are burning inefficiently due to a poor draft more than likely. You will want to discuss options with your professional to improve this draft because once draft is improved not only will the smoking problem cease but the fire will burn hotter and longer all the while
needing less care from you once its lit.
You also want to consider carefully if your fireplace has an odor when its raining or humid outside or if you feel cold air when the wind is blowing. In these cases you’ll want to install a top sealing damper, also called a chimney damper cap to close the chimney off at the top when your chimney is not in use.
Finally, a clean chimney is the most efficient version of your chimney without any other alterations because a clean chimney provides for the best draft (besides being more safe for burning). Having your chimney serviced and swept regularly will provide you with the opportunity to discuss options discussed above with a professional as well as make sure there aren’t any ongoing problems with your chimney.
I certainly would hope that no one would ever experience one of these hostile chimney fires in their home. Many a chimney fire ruined a Christmas or New Years Holiday gathering. Chimney fires are known to be either very quiet and almost an undetectable rumbling, or as many customers has told me it had a sound like that of a very loud jet aircraft or freight train going through the house.
This loud tornado wind sound is caused as room air is being sucked up the chimney flue and is often accompanied by hot flames that are shooting out of the chimney, while spitting hot chunks of swollen creosote on to the rooftop. A loud popping and cracking sound is often heard as terra-cotta clay flue tiles are breaking from the rapid heat expansion.
It is not uncommon to hear from a homeowner that a neighbor came pounding on their front door, shouting that flames from a fire where shooting out of the top of their chimney, then the local fire department was called and came rushing to the fire.
As I mentioned, to often chimney fires are not heard at all. It may be a quiet rumbling and referred to as being slow burning. This slow burning fire is what chimney sweeps often discover during a standard maintenance chimney cleaning. If a chimney fire is discovered, a video scanning of the interior of chimney liner is recommended, we would be assessing for any possible damage. I will say that it is rather unusual that no fire damage had occurred, as this intense heat from the fire can exceed 2,000 degrees, buckling metal chimney pipes and cracking flue tiles as well as damaging mortar joints found both in the smoke chamber and the flue tiles mortar system.
Signs of a Chimney Fire https://youtu.be/5e2_6HUVtjI
It is very important to understand that fire is only supposed to be present in the firebox area, and not in the smoke chamber or chimney flue system!
According to building codes standards, a fireplace chimney flue system must be able to contain the products of combustion (smoke) and that the fireplace must be repaired before further use, if it is damaged!
Sudden Occurrence Insurance Claims https://youtu.be/ImkfRabTTPI
Video Scanning the interior of the Chimney Flue
I would recommend that a chimney contractor photograph damage areas of the chimney, bag a sample of the swollen or puffed creosote. As a chimney contractor we will have our customers sign our receipt of our discovery, documentation and communication of their chimney fire incident and to discontinue use further use, until proper repairs are made. We will also recommend having the homeowner contact their homeowners insurance carrier, as this is most often considered a “Sudden Occurrence” within the insurance industry terminology and possibly chimney repairs of like and kind may be covered under their Home Owners insurance policy.
In conclusion Christmas …..is a perfect time for a Chimney Fire, as any homeowners toss their Christmas wrapping paper and cardboard boxes in the fireplace and ignite a needless chimney fire. As a side bar there are two other times of the year that a chimney fire often occurs. One is when the Christmas tree is broken apart and used to get a roaring fire started. The other time is on those “Special Football Sundays” as greasy pizza boxes are pitched into the fireplace… A loud whoosh can be heard as a chimney-fire is now blazing out of control from the top of your house. Smoke alarms are blasting, the sound of fire truck sirens can be heard 6 blocks away, as they are coming into your neighborhood to connect their fire-truck hoses up to the water hydrant, ladders are going to be thrown up onto your gutters to mount your rooftop to begin attacking your chimney fire. This doesn’t need to happen to you and your family over the holiday season or at all. That is if you’re having your fireplace regularly serviced and practices some basic fireplace burning techniques.
Burn Safe and Warm
Creosote odor problem. … Oh my goodness do they ever stink up a home!
I couldn’t tell you how many times over the years that I have been called by a rather frustrated customers, telling me they have a horrible odor that is filling their home and the smell seams to be coming from the fireplace.Being in the fireplace business over 30 years I have found that most odor problems stem from one of two things.
Either there is something dead in a chimney such as birds, squirrels or a big old nasty dead raccoon. Not going into detail here, trust me that is not a fun job to remove!The second odor culprit and the most common is the foul smell of creosote soaked air that is being pulled down into the home often by the cold air returns and furnace ductwork.Creosote is from smoke that contains droplets of unburned carbon and is often referred to as tar-fog, within the chimney and fireplace business, These tar-fog droplets often will condense and collect on the cooler interior walls of both the fireplace and chimney flue system.Creosote is that black flammable substance that is left in a fireplace or wooding burn stove.
Hot fires that are associated with burning cardboard or paper can easily flame up past the damper area and often ignite droplets of creosote. Now you have an un-friendly or possibly an out of control chimney fire. Know well that many chimney-fires are much quieter and are referred to as being “slow burning”, still often cause a huge amount of damage to the interior of the fireplace masonry as well as to hidden wooden framing and mantels.
Now lets get back to identifying and solving your fireplace odor problem. Over the years I have tried many concoctions’ of home remedies. I have read a lot regarding house pressures induced odor problems. I have purchased many of these odor products online as well as at the local hardware store. Using those fresh air smelling small carbon jell tubs, vinegar filled bowls or those Chimney cleaning logs all work to some degree, but have not offer a lasting solution for stinky fireplaces. I’m sorry to report to you, but these pungent odors don’t seem to be able to masked over to satisfy for myself, or my customers’ noses’
So let start with your wood source, and as we discussed that incomplete combustion term may sound high tech, but in reality is that it boils down to your firewood is not being “burned completely and /or the fireplace is not drafting up enough to properly flush those Smokey-gases out of your homes fast enough.
In other words the smoke is lingering in the chimney flue way to long, it is then condensing into creosote and collecting on the cooler walls of the fireplace. Then when your furnace system kicks on, the air pressures within your home are often reversed, thus pulling odors down and are now being re-distributed throughout the home.
Whenever I’m called out to a customer’s home for an odor problem, as soon as I arrive I go looking for their woodpile. I want to see if the wood is covered properly from those soaking snowfalls and spring rains and if it is it soaking wet?
Wet unseasoned wood burns slow and will often make a hissing sound as it is steaming the water out. I’ll check to see if is it appears to be a hard wood or not. Most important is the wood seasoned.
Just because the woodpile appears to look gray or weathered, it does not indicate to me that it is seasoned properly. Looking at the butt end of the wood is it smooth like it was just cut recently or does it have lots of weathered cracked ends. This cracking is, caused by the moisture being dried out of the wood. For properly seasoned wood it is often cut, stacked and has a waterproof covering and should have a moisture content after seasoning of 15% to 25%.
When I enter a home I’m questioning, where are the cold air returns in the room? Is there a cathedral ceiling, what is the proximity to the stairwell in relationship to the mouth of the fireplace opening?
Odor Problems ——————-> https://youtu.be/2s_DsVFXc1A
Did you know that a stairwell could produce a much stronger up draft than the actual fireplace? This is especially true while starting a fire, so I recommend starting off with smaller fires. It takes about 45 minutes to heat cold masonry up to draw properly. Smoke and odors will follow the path of least resistance, so high cathedrals ceiling and stairway can be very problematic to the air balance within your home.
The locations of your furnace cold air returns within the home can be very critical in creating a sluggish draft. This is especially true when starting up your fireplace. Also leaving large amounts of ash in the fireplace can actually hold moisture and odors, so be sure to remove these ashes if you’re having an ongoing problem.
To often I have gone to homes where the customer is choking the fireplace damper down, they are doing this to create a much longer burn time. Often this smoke is getting up to the top of the chimney, but it is now collecting on the spark arrestor screening. This sluggish draft is now lingering way to long and this creosote is now collecting on the walls of the flue system, as well as the screening. This is way to often the case for my wood stove burning customers.
Negative Pressure Issues ——–> https://youtu.be/AN4X9jPJdqI
Be sure to check the spark arrestor, as you drive off to work or are taking the kids to school take a look back at your chimney top is your spark arrestor clear of blockage or not?
Be sure to check the spark arrestor, as you drive off to work or are taking the kids to school take a look back at your chimney top is your spark arrestor clear of blockage or not?
Like most things in life, most problems need to be resolved by a process of elimination.
Here are my possible solutions to your stinky fireplace problem!
) In early spring before your AC kicks on have your fireplace cleaned by a professional chimney sweep. You can find a reputable Chimney Sweep in your area by using this link to the National Chimney Sweep Guild locator http://www.ncsg.org/search. Also be sure and go online and read their customer reviews from Google, BBB and AngiesList. I’m never impressed with those cheaper “Swab and Rob companies
2) Only burned wood that has been seasoned properly for at least 6 months.
3) Coverer your seasoned firewood.
5) Consistently monitor the spark arrestor on the top of your chimney cap.
* Let me Know if this help with your odor problem or not!
Burn safe and warm!
There are very few supermarkets these days that do not have firewood stacked up outside: small batches of logs wrapped in cellophane with a handle attached that seems to be more useful for punishing hands than serving as an effective method of carrying 20+ pounds of wood.
It’s all in the spirit of convenience, however, and although those tortuous totes of timber can make an effective fire, there is no retail option more appealing than manufactured firelogs. There are many brands, but one purpose: to provide a quick, easy-to-light fire for homeowners who wish to entertain their family or guests for the evening.
But how safe are they? Are they better than just using traditional firewood? Let’s compare firewood and firelogs to figure out the pros and cons of each.
The biggest complaint against burning firewood is the amount of greenhouse gases created by a typical fire. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of burning wood, and although the levels are not high enough for concern to the homeowner, the gases that come out of the chimney are considered significant enough by some locales that limits have been placed on wood burning, such as “no burn” days.
The most common fire logs are made from two components: paraffin wax (a petroleum byproduct) and sawdust. Both are manufacturing waste products that are now combined, packaged and resold by some companies as firelogs.
The origin of firelogs may not sound incredibly environmentally friendly, but they do provide ecological upside when used in the fireplace as a replacement for wood. Studies have been performed on the emissions from firelogs, and although their final conclusions vary, they all agree that firelogs give off less harmful emissions than a fire fueled by wood.
Part of the difference is also due to the amount of material used. In a typical evening’s fire, 20-25 pounds of wood are used. Firelogs are designed for single use, and weigh up to six pounds. Less material burned equates to less emissions. It also means less creosote buildup over the course of a burning season.
Manufacturers have improved on the initial sawdust and wax model over the years by offering products that use more natural vegetable-based binders and even coffee beans. So, as far as the Earth is concerned, chalk a victory up to firelogs.
Part of the appeal of a fire in the fireplace are the nostalgic tingling of many senses: the smell of a fire, the crackles and pops, the dancing flames.
Burning a firelog may be a bit of a letdown for those looking for a more traditional fire. The smell is certainly different, the flames are there but aren’t necessarily as random as a wood fire, and all that can be heard is the faint hiss of the escaping gases.
Some manufacturers have introduced firelogs that imitate the sounds of a wood fire, and even some with different colored flames. But quite honestly, there’s nothing that compares to a good, raging wood fire.
Although aesthetic appeal is a big plus of owning a fireplace, many also enjoy (or even rely on) the heat that is generated by their fires. It’s one thing to see the beauty of a fire from across the room, but even better when it can be felt from up close.
As mentioned previously, a wood fire is often made up of many logs, not just one, and the volume of fuel helps to create a warmth that is a signature of wood fires. As firelogs are designed to only be burned one at a time, the single log certainly does not generate enough warmth to attract anyone to want to sit closer.
If the attraction of heat is a big desire, steer away from firelogs.
Walking by that woodpile in front of the local supermarket might be tempting, but consider this: is tinder and kindling handy? Will someone be around to add another wood log on the fire when it dies down? Is someone even available who knows how to properly start a wood fire?
Picking up a four-hour firelog for the night and merely lighting the packaging may seem like cheating to some, but it sure makes having missed out on being a scout that much easier to deal with.
This may seem like an easy answer, but it all depends on how often the fireplace is used. Will it be used on just the occasional weekend, or is this the type of home that has a fire every night?
For some, wood is easily the cheaper choice because fallen trees are readily available for cutting and splitting. (Of course, the monetary cost is replace with much blood, sweat and tears, but adds the benefit of feeling tough.) For the frequent burners, it may also be more economical to buy a cord or two of wood every burning season.
For others, it is much better to buy individual firelogs for the handful of times company is over to enjoy the fireplace. So, as the frequency of fires increases, wood becomes the more affordable choice, and firelogs benefit the casual burners.
What did you expect, an endorsement of some sort? Of course, it is not the chimney sweep’s job to recommend one over the other, as both have their positives and negatives. Regardless of whether wood or firelogs are the best choice for home burning, make sure to still have an annual inspection done by a reputable chimney professional, and cleaned if necessary
In the middle of a brutal winter, it is only natural to desire the warmth of your own home. In most homes a fireplace is a natural gathering place for the family to escape the truth of the cold air right outside.
Unfortunately, that soothing fire could start a chimney fire, causing significant and even dangerous damage to your chimney system. It is no wonder that most chimney fires occur in the winter, but what do you know about them? Here are nine items to keep in mind to help avoid or deal with chimney fires.
1) A fire is only meant to be within a fireplace.
A popular news item around the holidays is the home caught ablaze due to a chimney fire. A chimney is designed to handle hot gases, such as the smoke that comes from burning a fire down below, but once flames enter the system direct above the top of your fireplace, damage can quickly occur.
So, how does that happen? One common cause is an lit item floating up and igniting creosote build-up. That’s why any chimney sweep worth their weight in soot will recommend only burning wood or approved fire logs in your fireplace. Items such as wrapping paper left behind after frenzied Christmas present opening and pizza boxes from your winter sports bash should never be burned in a fireplace.
2) A chimney fire may go undetected.
It is commonly said that a chimney fire can sound like a freight train or jet coming through your house. While that is certainly true for large-scale chimney fires, smaller ones can often go undetected.
If you suspect you may have had a chimney fire, an inspection of the flue system will certainly uncover some clues. Something to look for are blotches or spotted areas where some creosote is present but some of the flue tile is clean. Other telltale signs of a chimney fire are puffy creosote (looking very much like black cheese puffs) and vertical cracks in the flue tiles. All of these are sure signs your chimney may be damaged from a chimney fire.
If any signs of a chimney fire are present, it can be assumed that the system has been compromised and should be considered unsafe to burn. A chimney professional can come and investigate as well to confirm your suspicions.
3) Having your chimney inspected annually and swept (if necessary) is the best prevention for a chimney fire.
As with any fire, there needs to be a catalyst of some sort, and fuel. Some catalysts have already been mentioned (if you’re not starting your fire, don’t throw all that newspaper in there!), but normal levels of creosote that build up in a year are typically not enough fuel for a chimney fire to ignite.
It takes what is known as glazed creosote, and it is much different than its powdery sooty beginnings. Using treated, green or wet wood in your fires will cause creosote to build up faster. Burning too much of this wood, or any excessive wood burning without cleaning, turns what most recognize as soot into a glossy, oily looking creosote that is baked onto the tile and brick of the chimney.
Annual inspection and cleaning when necessary is the best way to prevent this buildup. Look for a chimney professional to provide this service, and schedule it annually to prevent your chimney from developing glazed creosote.
Also, using commercially available products such as creosote powder treatments on your logs can help to alleviate this buildup. This is a great option for those homeowners who have wood burning stoves, or use their fireplaces daily throughout the winter, though it should not be used as a substitute for a proper cleaning.
4) Chimney fires are considered “sudden occurrences” by most homeowner’s insurance policies, and repairs are therefore typically covered.
Repairing the damage caused by a chimney fire can be an expensive proposition. In most cases, the chimney fire has damaged the system to the point that the liner can no longer protect your home from the hot gases emitted by a fire. A repair of this magnitude can cost thousands of dollars
This is one of those cases where homeowner’s insurance comes in handy. A chimney fire is classified as a “sudden occurrence” in most homeowner’s insurance policies. Although each policy is different, making a call to your insurance agent to verify coverage is a good idea if you have had a chimney fire. This can take an expensive repair and makes it much more affordable.
5) The most important thing to do if a chimney fire has occurred is to document everything possible.
Working with an insurance company is certainly not a homeowner’s dream, but the best plan to make it as pleasant as possible is to properly document what has happened.
Things to consider having documented are the date and time the fire occurred (if known), the name of the service professional who inspected the chimney after the fire, and the date it was inspected. Also be sure to save any paperwork provided by the professional, as it will often contain additional items observed by the service company that would be traditional signs of a chimney fire. Many times an insurance claim can be expedited if these things are documented in advance.
6) Video and/or photographic evidence of the damage done by a chimney fire is crucial if the date of the fire is not known.
If the fire occurs slowly and quietly, in many cases it can still do enough damage to make your chimney unsafe to burn. So, if the fire department wasn’t called and flames weren’t seen coming out of the top of the chimney, it can often be difficult when the damage occurred.
Chimney professionals who work with insurance companies will typically offer to do a video chimney scan when a chimney fire is suspected. In this type of inspection, a small closed circuit camera is attached to a rod and run through the entire length of the chimney system and recorded. This is a level of inspection that insurance companies prefer, as it can provide irrefutable evidence of a chimney fire. If video is not available, photographs are a recommended fallback option
Looking down the chimney to damaged flue liners that must be replaced!
7) Let the insurance company lead the investigation, but keep a dialogue with them every step of the way.
When working with insurance, it is always the best policy to allow them to take the lead and provided the documentation and assistance they need as they need it. If no one has been out to service the fireplace yet after the fire, feel free to arrange that service after the insurance asks for a more detailed inspection.
However, feel free to check in with the insurance company from time to time, asking what the status of the claim is and if they need anything other information or documentation.
8) The first word from the insurance company may not be the last word.
Sometimes a homeowner may initially get a “no.” This can be for many reasons and can vary from company to company, but don’t just assume that is the end of the conversation. A policy holder certainly has a right for an explanation to any denied claim. Many times, it may be because they do not have enough information or the correct information.
Once again, documentation is priceless in this situation. Ask to have the claim reviewed by another claims supervisor or the manager of the claims department. See what gaps in information might be there and suggest ways you can provide what they need to reconsider.
9) Even if the insurance company ends up denying the claim, there are other legal options.
Although most claims are hassle-free if you have proper documentation, there are certain times when the homeowner and the insurance company may come to an impasse. If that is the case, there are ways to challenge the insurance company legally. As a final effort, the homeowner can consider contacting an attorney that specializes in insurance fire loss claims.
In most situations, though, the insurance company is more than willing to work with homeowners who are well prepared. With a bit of documentation, a homeowner who suffers a chimney fire can join their family around their fireplace with a newly repaired chimney system in no time flat
As burning season approaches, many homeowners already have it in their fall checklist to have their chimney inspected and cleaned.
Of course, this includes prospective homeowners as well. A fireplace is never more appealing than when home shoppers walk through crisp, cool air on their way from the car to their next home tour.
Many homeowners, and even real estate professionals, are not aware that all chimney inspections are not the same. As home inspections kick in for properties, home buyers don’t just concern themselves with aesthetic appeal, but safety as well.
To address this concern, the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) has established guidelines for chimney and fireplace system inspections. As outlined in their NFPA 211 publication, there are three levels of classification for these inspections: Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3.
Most inspections that are given by chimney professionals to existing homeowners are Level 1 inspections. A Level 1 inspection includes an examination of the readily accessible portions of the chimney exterior, interior and accessible portions of any appliance in the system and its connection to the chimney. The basic structure of the chimney is inspected as well as the flue, verifying that there are no obstructions or combustible deposits in the system. A basic inspection of any appliance and its installation is also performed, including connections to the chimney system.
If there has been no change in the condition or the use of the system (for instance, no damage and roughly the same amount of wood or fuel is being burned), a Level 1 inspection is sufficient.
If there is any change to the system, such as a new fuel (like converting from wood use to natural gas use), a new lining (for example, relining with a stainless steel liner) or any appliance change, a Level 2 inspection is required. Additionally, if there is a home ownership change or some external event has damaged the chimney (such as a lightning strike, earthquake, etc.) a Level 2 inspection is necessary.
A Level 2 inspection will include all elements of a Level 1 inspection, but also requires the evaluation of additional accessible portions of the chimney both inside and out, including areas that may be harder to access like crawlspaces, basements and attics. The person inspecting these areas should look for combustible material and ensure the chimney system has sufficient clearance from these materials.
It also requires full visual inspection of the interior of the flue system, which usually requires a video scan. This is meant to examine all flue joints and internal surfaces within the chimney to look for gaps or deterioration.
In unusual or extreme cases, when a Level 2 inspection might uncover a potential issue and troubleshooting requires accessing an area of the chimney system that is not readily accessible, a Level 3 inspection should be performed. If a serious issue is suspected, a Level 3 inspection could include removing or destroying portions of the system to reveal hidden areas not otherwise accessible in other forms of inspection. This could include the chimney crown or an external or internal chimney wall, and should only be done when it is absolutely necessary and when a serious situation is suspected.
It is recommended that every chimney system be inspected annually by a professional Chimney Sweep, and cleaned if necessary. Though most of those visits would only need a Level 1 inspection, there are other tools the chimney professional has at their disposal to perform increased levels of inspection to ensure the chimney system is as sound as it can be
Levels of inspections
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